Wife’s right in joint family property

Question asked on: 03/07/2015

Does wife have any right in joint family property? I am a helpless lady. My husband refused me without any reason. My marital home situated at Vardaman. What is the law regarding the right of a woman in marital property? 

Advised by: Shivendra Pratap Singh,

“Hindu law does not grant any right to wife in her marital home’s property, their only chance of getting anything is on inheritance, as equal share with the sons and daughters, if the marriage was subsisting on the death of the husband.”

The husband alone has the right and capacity to hold all means and property. A legal presumption about property of Hindu is that it is joint Hindu property (joint family property). The senior most member of the family performs the role of Karta. Karta is the manager of the Hindu Joint family. Therefore, he manages all property. 

Joint Hindu family is no legal entity because it has no status in the absence of its members. However, a coparcenary is a legal institution constituted by the members of three generations of male heirs in the family.

All members including the daughters have right in the joint Hindu family property. Daughters are included in the meaning of coparcener by the amendment act of 2005. Unfortunately, the mother, wife and daughter-in-law still have no such right as the daughter. Even, they are members of the joint family.

Section 18 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act provides that wife to be maintained by her husband during her lifetime. Section 19 of the same Act, speaks of the right of maintenance of a widowed daughter in law from her father in law. 

Wife has no such right to enjoy joint Hindu property as experienced by the other members of the joint family.

Wife has only one remedy, i.e. to receive an amount in the form of maintenance. The Hindu Succession Act 1956, enacted in the 1950s to remove the gender bias from the Hindu law. 

Moreover, it provides that the death of a man would result in a deemed partition of his share in the joint property. This partitioned share would then be distributed equally among his children and widow. His self-acquired property shall be divided equally among his sons and daughters and widow.

But the question is whether the wife has the right to get a partition of her husband’s ancestral or self acquired property as a matter of right? 

In the present situation of law, wife has no such right. Hindu succession act was amended in the year 2005 with a view to give daughter a share in the Hindu joint family.  Only daughter got such right and wife still relegating.

Unfortunately wife is still being oust of the coparcenary system. The amendment, therefore, by itself cannot offer much to Hindu women. Moreover, its owner can dispose off such property during his lifetime by gift. It can be bequeath by will to anyone of his choice. A Hindu father can disinherit his wife or daughter by will, in his self-acquired property.

All women of the family including daughters and wife, are members of the Hindu joint family. They have an absolute right to be maintained out of the joint family properties. Daughters have a right to marriage expenses. Wife and widows have the right to be maintained for life out of the joint family property.

Hindu law does not grant any rights to wives in marital property, their only chance of getting anything was on an inheritance, as equal share with the sons and daughters, if the marriage was subsisting on the death of the husband. On divorce, of course, even that right to inheritance disappears. Wife has a right only in the deceased man’s ‘‘notional’’ portion.

She can’t get her part of “notional” share by partition, she has to wait until the partition is claimed by sons or male member of the joint family. After the divorce wife has only one right to get maintenance out of her husband’s property if the husband fails to or refuses to maintain.

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Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate, Lucknow

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